The contemporary world has been shrinking. The ease to travel, the rapid transfer of high technology and the Internet are components that brought people closer than it has ever been in history. The globalized world we live in today has brought change in world politics where security has become an even more collective matter not only to states but companies and organizations. Since the 1990s, the rise of coalitions, peacekeeping missions and humanitarian interventions have been parts of this new global era.
Political economy is more than ever globalized, conflicts in one area can have an economic and political impact thousands of kms away through the rise of terrorism, influx of refugees and fluctuating stock markets in commodities such as oil and gold. Countries are keener to look for diplomatic cooperation while Multinational Companies (MNCs) multiplied their presence worldwide creating more similarities among different cultures. Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), the United Nations (UN) and other entities entail a sense of responsibility to intervene in states’ affairs. Nonetheless, one aspect remains unchanged in this world order: the divide between the so-called Global South and Global North or between the “dominated” and the “domineers”.
Conflicts, poverty, lack of access to basic needs and security persist despite living in a globalized world. The Global South continues to be under the patronage of the winner of globalization, i.e. the Global North. The rise of intra-state conflicts, civil unrest and terrorism are mostly been within the less developed parts of the world. Accordingly, the international community and its humanitarian interventionist spirit often take the lead in decision-making of those countries. How to resolve conflicts, to punish and to help are taken as the responsibility to protect by big powers. Conflict resolutions, have become globalized with the rise of mechanisms on international conflict resolution. NGOs are increasingly engaged in projects to teach how to resolve conflicts to local communities around the world.
States’ leaders are more intent to create coalitions to find common strategy in peace operations and resolutions. It has become the norm to have a third party involved all under the guise of international laws. A country would be the mediator between two states, for instance. An agreement or an accord would generally be signed after long lasting discussions. However, often such agreements or accords are not successful. For instance, the Addis Ababa Accord of South Sudan in 2015 did not bring any signs of peace or agreement between the rival parties until today.
Agreements or accords often fail to take into consideration civilians’ grievances and deep rooted causes of conflicts. As a result, this globalization of conflict resolutions has led to a new era when international rules are standardized and perceived as the only method in resolving conflicts. Besides, many resolutions are implemented not only when there is violence but when threats exist. In fact, internationalizing conflict resolutions also includes conflict “prevention” or even the threat of the use of force to discourage a party to act with violence. Sanctions, sending peace troops or negotiations and mediation by a third party are part of the process.
Solution from the international community is perceived as failing in many parts of the world. It is, in fact, fuelling more tensions. Sanctions have caused more harm than good where often the most vulnerable are paying the price of “punishment”. Sanctions on Iraq, for instance, caused the death of millions of children due to embargo on food, which turned out to be mostly baby, food in the 1990s.
The Eritrean-Ethiopian conflict of 1998-2000 saw the involvement of the international community resulting in the signing of the Algiers Agreement and the deployment of the UN Mission of Eritrea Ethiopia (UNMEE). Clearly, the example of Eritrea shows the failure of the international system both by the lack of respect for the signed agreement by Ethiopia and UNMEE’s lack of respect for the Eritrean society’s values. It didn’t give choice to the Eritrean government other than to request the peacekeeping mission to leave its territory.
Intra-state conflicts and civil unrest have led to chaos in many parts of the world where international intervention has been fuelling the fire. For instance, the intervention of US soldiers in Somalia in the 1990s and France’s and UN peacekeepers’ complete failure during the Rwanda genocide in 1994, which led to almost one million death in less than 90 days. The spread of horrific images and the influx of refugees are some of the impacts of the failure of the international community to find solution before a conflict escalates into war and massacres.
As internationalizing conflict resolutions are not as successful in practice as they are assumed on paper, it is pushing many towards a return to traditional conflict resolution mechanisms, especially on the African continent. In fact, the continent has about 75% of all international peace operation staff according to the report of SIPRI New Geopolitics of Peace Operations titled African Directions towards an Equitable Partnership in Peace Operations (2016) by Xenia Avezov et al. However, most UN peace missions in Africa are far from showing best results and even less in gaining a good reputation. Dr. Ann L Philips, in her paper entitled Losing Legitimacy? UN Peace Missions in Africa, wrote that the presence of missions in the Central African Republic (CAR), South Sudan, DRC and Mali are “at high risk of failure”. She went on by explaining that there is either the “inability or unwillingness to protect civilians as well as widespread sexual exploitation and abuse, calling into question the legitimacy of missions in Africa” (Philips 2016:14). The trust and hope towards international intervention is, hence, a question mark to many in Africa and in the Global South, in general.
Many voices are echoing in finding alternatives to end conflicts and resolve them for lasting peace. Punishing by using tools of globalization such as the International Criminal Court (ICC) has been a matter of debate for years. African states are increasingly becoming discontent by the acts of the Court. Burundi withdrew from its membership and Gambia has given notification to do so. Such moves reflect Africa’s willingness to own and deal with its issues using its own path.
There is a move towards different types of conflict resolution around the world. Societies are going back to local and traditional methods of conflict resolution enshrined for centuries within their communities. One of them is the gacaca traditional justice in Rwanda. This traditional judicial system, which is a pre-colonial mechanism in dealing with issues at community level, was re-implemented in 2001 under the Organic Law of 1996 and the Gacaca Law of 2001 (Clark 2008). It aimed at not just punishing but finding peace, truth and reconciliation and forgiveness among the people to ensure a peaceful future society through dialogue. It aims at reconciling and forgiving offenses through dialogue.
Similarly, the truth commission of South Africa aimed at reconciliation of the post-apartheid society. The Barza is another traditional judicial system used in resolving conflict in the North Kivu region of the DRC and was implemented in 1998. Recently, the Lagos Court of Arbitration also called for the re-awakening of a traditional judicial system to bring back traditional dispute resolution (Ramon 2017). In Liberia, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Act 2005 was implemented aiming at investigating gross human rights violations and to provide a forum for dialogue of truth telling (Fombad 2008:6). In Sierra Leone also a truth commission was established to promote healing and reconciliation as part of the conflict resolution process. In Eritrea, community courts play a vital role in the judicial system. With more than 400 community courts nationwide, it is the continuity of past customary practices in dealing with low crimes and disputes.
These few examples of methods of dealing with conflicts in a bottom-up approach where the hearing of victims and local community is perceived as a way to resolve issues towards lasting peace. The people who are always the targets in conflicts are given a voice to air their grievances and also to heal their wounds and rebuild their society. These are becoming more and more recognized as the globalization of conflict resolutions have failed to respond to the fact that resolving conflict start by looking at the deep causes at the grassroots level.